How Many Jelly Beans?: Andrea Menotti
Children's Literacy and Reading News Roundup: Mid-April

Robot Zombie Frankenstein: Annette Simon

Book: Robot Zombie Frankenstein!
Author: Annette Simon
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-8

RZF1-smRobot Zombie Frankenstein! is a fun new picture book by Annette Simon (see also my review of Mocking Birdies). It's about zombies, robots, and ... cherry pie. It's also about friendship, one-upmanship, and shapes. Two robots (each composed of a series of shapes) are hanging out, when one of them decides to transform himself into Robot ZOMBIE! Not the be outdone, the other robot becomes Robot zombie Frankenstein! Then the first robot becomes Robot zombie Frankenstein PIRATE! And so on. Things progress to a ridiculous level, until the introduction of a cherry pie changes the game.

Robot Zombie Frankenstein! reminded me a bit of Shark vs. Train (which I adore but somehow never reviewed) in the playful competition between the two characters. You can actually see the robots becoming aware of the ridiculousness of the later permutations. Kids are sure to laugh.

Although there isn't much text to the book (basically the current Robot zombie etc. description, and some short asides by the characters), Simon uses a variety of visual elements to bring kids into the story. The illustrations are digitally created, and she uses the relative size of the robots (and text), as well as lines delineating motion, to add excitement. The robots are brightly colored and composed of a variety of shapes, all with smooth textures. When the pie is introduced as a high-resolution photograph, the contrast is strong and surprising (and likely to leave the reader craving cherry pie for dessert).

Robot Zombie Frankenstein! is that relatively rare book in which the endpapers add something to the story. The front endpapers show a series of colored shapes, each labeled as "semicircle", "rectangle", "lines", etc. The back endpapers show the same shapes, but now labeled as "robot foot", "robot torso", "Frankenstein scar", etc. One kind of wants to make a copy of the whole thing, cut out the shapes, and let the young reader have at assembling the robots. I can imagine a cut-out robot shape kit to accompany the book, actually.

So we have a picture book that introduces a bunch of interesting character types (most of which, like pirates, are inherently cool), sends a tiny message about cooperating vs. competing, and shows kids (painlessly) how shapes can be assembled into pictures. All of this is combined into a bright, dynamic package, with strong visuals and a dash of advanced vocabulary ("scallywag").

I think that Robot Zombie Frankenstein! would make an excellent storytime readaloud. I look forward to introducing it to Baby Bookworm when she is a tiny bit older (I think that Frankenstein and zombies are a bit too abstract for her for right now). Recommended for readers 3 and up.

Publisher: Candlewick (@Candlewick)
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).